When Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan says he has been influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand, most of us probably aren't quite sure what that means. Years ago, I happened to pick up one of her novels and rather liked it. So, I went to the library and picked up a couple mre, which made me increasingly uncomfortable.
Ayn Rand's position is that some people are born aristocrats who can appreciate and deserve to live more prosperous lives than other people, and that will make society as a whole a better place.
She believes if we all act entirely in our own self interests, society as a whole will benefit. This is sometimes called Social Darwinism: Let only the strong survive and the human race will be stronger.
This is an interesting theory, but might be a little messy to watch.
One of her heroines is from an aristocratic family who formerly employed many servants. They now live in a few rooms and have no servants. She looks at her mother's formerly white and beautiful hands and laments peeling the family vegetables has made them red and rough.
However, she never wasted any sorrow over the hands of the servant girl who use to peel vegetables in the days of their prosperity.
It was at this point that Ayn Rand lost me. I have peeled a vegetable or two in my day.
A pocket description of the philosophy of Ayn Rand is selfishness. It can attract people who are smarter or richer or healthier than the rest of us.
But, it seems to me, that we all benefit when everyone has a little something, enough to buy cars and food and houses and keep the economy rolling.
Mitt Romney has embraced Paul Ryan's budget, which promises not to inconvenience the wealthy and to do as little as possible for those who need help.
Ayn Rand would approve.
However, I recall some uncomfortable passages in the New Testament where we are asked to be "our brother's keeper," and if we have two coats, to give one to someone who has none.
Along with many economists, I believe we must continue to support the economic recovery and those who need help in the short run. As President Obama has done.
When the economy recovers a little more, we can implement some of the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, adjusting entitlements and tax policy.
As I trust President Obama to do.